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Mosquera, Holley & Wimberly Bill to Help Law Enforcement Better Respond to Security Threats in Schools Clears Assembly, Heads to Gov

(TRENTON) – The full Assembly on Thursday gave final legislative approval, 74-0-1, to legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Jamel Holley and Benjie Wimberly that would give local law enforcement access to a school’s video surveillance system in order to better assist students and staff in the event of a security threat.

The bill (A-1205) requires that if a school building is equipped with video surveillance equipment that is capable of wirelessly streaming live video to a remote location, the board of education must enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with local law enforcement authorities giving the authorities the ability to activate the equipment and view live streaming videos.

“Many schools are equipped with video surveillance systems to help keep students and staff safe. If the purpose of these cameras is to enhance security, it makes sense to make them available to law enforcement in the event of a security threat,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Having the ability to see what’s happening inside the school in real time can help law enforcement respond in a way that does not exacerbate the threat and minimizes the potential for injury or worse.”

In the case of a school building located in a municipality that doesn’t have a municipal police department, the board would then enter into the MOU with an entity designated by the Superintendent of the State Police. Under the bill, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding any required provision of the MOU, then the county prosecutor will make the final determination regarding the provision.

“After the devastating tragedies in Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary, it makes sense for local law enforcement to have the ability to have eyes inside the school through school video surveillance cameras during school emergencies,” said Holley (D- Union). “This is proactive legislation that will help schools and local police become better prepared to handle school security threats in the future.”

“In light of the recent decrease in funding for security officers in Paterson schools, this bill is essential to keeping New Jersey students safe, especially those who attend schools in high-crime areas,” said Wimberly (D- Bergen, Passaic). “Student safety in our schools is a high priority for schools, the state and law enforcement. This legislation supports that.”

The MOU would designate the individuals who would have access to the live streaming video, the circumstances under which the individuals would be authorized to access the video, and a plan for preventing and detecting unauthorized access. The bill would not require the installation of video surveillance equipment that has the capacity to wirelessly stream video to a remote location.

The bill was released by the Assembly Education Committee on March 3. The bill will now head to the Governor for further consideration.